Thursday, June 20, 2024

ABC Removes Unauthorized Michael Jackson Special from Website as Estate Sues– Network’s Second Scandal of the Week


UPDATE The special is gone from the ABC website.

EARLIER What a week for ABC-Disney. First Roseanne, now Michael Jackson.

The Jackson estate has filed a copyright infringement law suit against ABC over the unauthorized special “The Last Days of Michael Jackson.”

We knew this was coming. The Estate had already complained about use of images and video that was not properly licensed. ABC held out this was a news show. But it wasn’t. It was just a recap of gossip. There was nothing newsy about it.

Ironically, ABC was where Jackson got into trouble back in 2003. It was Martin Bashir’s special, an ambush called “Living with Michael Jackson,” that prompted the Santa Barbara DA’s office to investigate whether Jackson had molested Gavin Arvizo. The DA cooked up evidence to get a trial that he eventually lost. But the net result was permanent damage to Jackson’s life and career. Bashir is long gone from ABC. But the network continues to exploit Jackson for ratings.

The lawsuit states: “Although titled The Last Days of Michael Jackson, the program did not
focus on Michael Jackson’s last days. Rather, it was simply a mediocre look back at
Michael Jackson’s life and entertainment career. A Rolling Stone review described
the program as “offer[ing] little in the way of new revelations or reporting and at
times seems heavy on armchair psychoanalysis and unsupported conjecture.” The
magazine was being too generous. The program contained nothing “in the way of
new revelations or reporting.”

It continues: “Unable to make a compelling presentation about Michael Jackson on its
own, Disney decided to exploit the Jackson Estate’s intellectual property without
permission or obtaining a license for its use. After all, there there is always a healthy
audience for Michael Jackson’s timeless music, his ground-breaking videos, and
footage of his unforgettable live performances. Why not just use Michael Jackson’s
works if one can get advertisers to buy time on the program? But in order to use
these valuable assets, a license must be obtained for it by the Estate.”

Estate attorney Howard Weitzman cleverly argues in the complaint that ABC’s parent company Disney has been aggressive in policing its own copyrights like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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